So, once you've been in the hospital a whole bunch of times you notice that every time there this this process where they try to figure out what is wrong with you. When you are stable enough to go home, they give you a letter that describes exactly what they did and exactly what they figured out. At this point I have a collection of them. They all bear upon them the exact same phrase: Diagnosis most responsible for admission.
In my specific case 99% of them read - "Diagnosis most responsible for admission: Chronic Hereditary Pancreatitis"
Not too many people know what Chronic Hereditary Pancreatitis is. In fact, half the time when an unfamiliar doctor sees it on my chart they go "How did you get pancreatitis?" glossing over the fact that the hereditary part would imply that much like any other genetic illness, I got a perfect copy of some imperfect RNA which just so happened to be autosomal dominant so that it could interfere with my life to the maximum potential possible. So, before you ask the next question that is sure to come, I got the pancreatitis from my Dad who didn't know that it was genetic, and just thought it was some pretty crappy luck. No one knew it could be passed on when he was at his sickest, so it never crossed anyone's mind. My sister and brother also have it too. Awesomely enough there is no cure, and very little they can do in terms of treatment.
Pancreatitis, regardless of whether it is the fancy rare genetic kind (The last estimate I saw was 1000 people in the US so about 100 people in Canada - My family is 1/25th of that), or the you just have really crappy luck king, are pretty much the same. Your pancreas gets inflamed and swollen and painful. You can get stones in your pancreas that can block the ducts which are painful and can also be super dangerous depending on where they are. A lot of people get pancreatitis from gallstones, but under the right conditions your pancreas can make stones too. When this happens you are typically in a lot of pain. Sometimes if you have chronic pancreatitis and are used to it you can manage at home with what is known as "supportive care": Lots of clear fluids to prevent dehydration, and pain medication. A lot of the time though you can need medical intervention, such as IV fluids, pain management, and sometimes medical options too, like scopes to get rid of the stones, or X-ray or ultrasound to make sure everything is okay. Typically if you can't keep down medications or fluids, or can't get the pain under control it is ER time.
The other basic information to know about pancreatitis is what your pancreas actually does. Your pancreas is a gland basically, that secretes insulin and digestive enzymes. It helps regulate your blood sugar and digest your food. People with pancreatitis can have a lot of trouble digesting certain foods (particularly ones that are higher in fat or fibre) and if they have chronic pancreatitis stand a greater chance of becoming both malnourished and diabetic over time.
The goal of the blog is that there aren't too many places where people talk about pancreatitis, and there aren't too many people to talk about it with. Plus a lot is happening with my pancreatitis right now, and having somewhere to talk about what is going on with me with people, particularly those who get it might be helpful. I haven't found too many spots that are okay to talk about being young and dealing with this and conversations about being a student and being sick, so I thought I'd start the conversation that I want to have myself :-)